It started with a brief, cryptic email. Rich Tennessen, chief executive officer of Milwaukee-based Eppstein Uhen Architects, said about 14 months ago he sent a two-sentence message to De Pere-based Performa CEO Doug Page. It read, "Hey, I've got an idea. Do you want to talk?" Page said he had an idea what it might be about. He and Tennessen knew of each other, because their firms sometimes competed on projects. "When I read the two sentences, I thought, 'Yeah, he might be fishing for interest,'" Page recalled. "So, I went home and shared it with my wife, Tracy, and she said, 'I think he wants to buy you.'" That email eventually led to EUA's acquisition of Performa, which also has offices in Atlanta. The two firms announced the deal yesterday. The acquisition will be effective Jan. 31, and will make EUA an architecture, engineering and interior design firm with more than 250 employees in Milwaukee, De Pere, Madison, Denver and Atlanta. The two combine for revenues of around $50 million in-house, Tennessen said. However, EUA's growth plans are not geared toward certain revenue or geographical benchmarks. "The idea of growth for us has never really been about quantity or reach," said Kristin Dufek, president of EUA. "It's really been about service and opportunities: service to clients and opportunities to our team members." But the months leading up to the acquisition involved a trial run of sorts. This was to ensure the two firms would mesh well together. Page said over the past roughly nine months the firms have collaborated on five or six projects. EUA invited Performa to partner with them on some work for the Howard-Suamico School District in Green Bay. Performa, likewise, brought in EUA to collaborate on a new clinic for the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin. "It isn't like they're working for us or we're working for them. The clients see us as completely transparent," Page said. It's no surprise the two firms worked well together. Dufek, Page and Tennessen said this is in large part due to their commonly held belief of putting clients above the firm. It was not long before both sides felt like old friends. "We were hugging on the second meeting," Dufek said. "We felt comfortable enough and were friends enough, this was great." Page said he recently notified his contacts at the Menominee tribe of the acquisition. "They kind of looked funny at us, (and said) 'Well, we thought you were one company already,'" he said. "It's been just a great ride so far."
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